Stem cells 101
Article by: JEAN SWENSON
Updated: April 7, 2011 - 10:24 PM

My heart goes out to patients and families waiting for effective treatments and cures.

I, too, have been waiting, and actively working toward a cure for my paralysis since a 1980 spinal cord injury.

A bill making its way through the Legislature, the Human Cloning Prohibition Act, has created quite a stir among those who say its passage would hinder research and treatment.

I respectfully disagree. As someone who stands to benefit from cutting-edge research, I'd like to clear up some common misunderstandings.

This short Q&A will help you understand human cloning and stem cell research so that you can accurately voice your opinion.

What are stem cells?

Stem cells are essentially "blank" cells found in embryos and humans of any age that can divide and change into specialized cells (such as heart or nerve cells). It is important to distinguish between embryonic stems cells and adult stem cells.

What are embryonic stem cells?

Harvested from five-day-old embryos, they are cells that normally would develop into a fetus and then a baby. All current embryonic stem cells are from fertilized embryos acquired from fertilization clinics.

What are adult stem cells?